The new electric bus plying the No. 5 route in Tel Aviv is supposed to be the first step toward having a quarter of the Dan company buses go electric, a very significant step. I use that bus line habitually, and decided in honor of the inauguration to ride it from the Central Bus Station, its starting point in the city's south, to the city’s northern train station. Though due to the exhaust fumes in the central bus station, I decided to wait for the bus one stop later.
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And then it came, orange and electric. "It's the electrician now!" a sweet old lady declared proudly, clutching her pocketbook as if it were a small child. "They talked about it in the news. I thought it would be completely silent, but it does make some noise. It's probably the battery."
The driver didn't seem particularly moved. When I asked him how it felt, he wasn’t in the mood to discuss it. "It's like a regular bus," he said. I sat next to a passenger by the name of Tzion, who couldn't hide his admiration for the bus of the future: "It's comfortable and economical. I'm a former police officer and understand these matters. The safety of the bus is also an important, necessary feature."
I moved to the top of the bus and sat next to Adam Semel, who works in the printing industry, and who seemed less happy: "I only hope they don’t demand higher fares. One can never know. Maybe the bus is nice, but they have one of these in Cyprus too. And it's much nicer there. In Cyprus, a bus is a bus, and punctuality is punctuality." I informed him that the economy in Cyprus collapsed, but he refused to believe me: "In Cyprus the transport is much better, the bus is never full. Never! It just doesn't happen."
‘Love the color’
Another passenger, Yardena, was more interested in the bus' color than its electric engine. "I love this color. Every line should have a different color, and there shouldn't be any advertisements. I heard about it today, and then I suddenly saw an orange bus, and jumped right on it."
The bus caused the beginning of a wonderful friendship between Shalom, a 72-year-old crane operator who came especially from Ramle, and Daniel, a young architect who also came just for the ride, taking a photo of himself and sending it to his girlfriend. The two men sat together throughout the ride, and exchanged phone numbers before they departed. Shalom had waited 20 minutes for the bus. "I see the progress and it warms my heart. It's good that citizens can enjoy advanced technology not only during wartime, not only in pain and sorrow," he says.
At the last stop Daniel and Shalom said their goodbyes. Shalom planned to take the return ride with the bus before heading home to Ramle. "I'm a pensioner, it costs me half-price," he said proudly.
At the station a group of journalists from a Chinese news agency awaited the Chinese-manufactured bus. The driver didn’t feel like answering their questions and telling the cameras that it's all the same. Other drivers, arriving to take a look at the bus, told the driver that he should at least smile, but it wasn’t on his agenda, and he was within his rights. Shalom, the crane operator, offered himself as an interviewee. "You should interview the passengers," he said, "I'll do some publicity for the Chinese." They agreed and he got on the bus, giving a speech in Hebrew about its advantages. Up front, some older women shouted: "Be quiet!"